PNG Supreme Court judge arrested over corruption allegations

The judge allegedly took payments from a PNG law firm accused of defrauding the government via inflated legal bills.

PNG Supreme Court judge Bernard Sakora has been arrested and charged with judicial corruption over alleged payments he took in relation to a law firm which was accused of defrauding the PNG Government, via inflated legal bills.

Police said Sakora accepted a 100,000 kina ($45,000) payment in 2009 from a company linked to Paul Paraka Lawyers, the ABC reported.

“The arrest is a result of ongoing investigations to the payment of legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers where this payment to the judge was discovered and the investigation conducted into the payment made,” said director of PNG's National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Matthew Damaru.

“He [Bernard Sakora] denied receiving the money.”

Damaru said officers came across the payment while investigating the long-running case.

Sakora has presided over several cases related to the payment of the legal bills involving the law firm.  In 2010, he issued an injunction in favour of lawyers Paul Paraka and former solicitor-general Zacchary Gelu, banning the implementation and publication of a report that came out of a Commission of Inquiry into the fraudulent bills charged to the government.

Officers investigating the case have been prevented from looking into key figures by a series of blanket court injunctions.  In February, Sakora issued a stay order preventing the arrest of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who is accused of authorising a $30m payment to the law firm.

The PNG Supreme Court discharged the injunctions when an appeal from the Prime Minister and Finance Minister were dismissed last week.

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